Megz Reynolds says it’s worth examining why women are still being seen as an extension of their husband’s work, instead of as farmers in their own right.
When you hear the word ‘farmer,’ what is the image that comes to mind? Is it still of a man dressed in overalls? Is there room in that image for a female farmer?
During this year’s harvest, I sent out a tweet, questioning why so many in agriculture only see women as extensions of their husbands. After all, why should women, who have every right to the title of ‘farmer,’ instead be labelled by their marital status? We would never refer to husbands as a farm husband rather than a farmer.
Why are so many in agriculture still pushing the ‘Farm Wife’ narrative?
Show me another industry where the wife is labelled and defined be her husbands roll?
Let’s recognize women as individuals not extensions of their husbands.
Although I expected some negative backlash, I didn’t expect to hear being called a “cheating whore,” “slut” and “thing.”
In 2016, I was grain farming full time, with two small children under the age of three in tow. I was as frustrated then as I am now with how the agricultural industry treats women and views their roles. I blogged about it during that year’s harvest:
“I have felt added pressure living in a small farm community to step back from my roles on the farm and be a stay-at-home mom. The kind of amazing woman who tends to the kids, keeps up with the chores and turns out incredible meals to feed the masses, especially during seeding and harvest. But that is not who I am, and it does not make me happy.
Truthfully it makes me resentful for having those expectations tossed on me just because I bore a couple of kids. I have the utmost respect for women in that role but of all the hats I wear, that isn’t my career choice. When asked what I do, I say farmer, because yes, I am mom, and I am a wife but those roles, while important, are not my career. I am a farmer.”
I have respect for all women and want each and every one of them to be empowered and supported to choose the role and title that they feel describes them best.
Many women use the term Farm Wife to identify as members of a community, to understand and support each other. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Having that community is so important and it is why we see the term used in other industries.
But in those other industries, the term is not used to define a career. I have friends that identify as army wives, but they are also nurses, teachers and stay-at-home-moms.
Unfortunately for women in agriculture, the industry is still struggling to see women as equal. Women are often not asked what role they play and are often labelled Farm Wife by default.
Farm Wife often has a negative connotation. For many, it means the woman should not be included in business decisions and communications. It means a woman’s primary role should be cooking meals and raising children. It means women should not be put forward for board positions. It means girls are not thought of as the next generation capable of taking over the family farm.
Some replies are missing the mark.
If you are a woman & are a farmer, having the term ‘farm wife’ applied to you is very diminishing.
My wife is a farmer, co-owner, partner, equal in every way to me – except for how she is perceived, accepted, & interacted with by the industry.
Women are leaving the industry or stepping back because being a female in agriculture comes with harassment, slander, defamation and the fear of one’s career being ruined for speaking up or speaking out.
If agriculture is truly to be the sector of the future, and to be respected as the industry it can and should be, we need to create equality for all within it. We need to stop attacking those who raise questions and challenge status quos. We need to support all within to define their roles, careers and next steps.
My girls are now five and seven. They frequently let me know that when they grow up, they want to be farmers. To them, that means they will one day run equipment, fix that equipment when it breaks down, make decisions on what to grow and how to care for crops during the growing season, market their grain, deal with salespeople and continually learn to improve their business.
When my girls think of the future, they do not think of a world where their career choice or title is influenced by getting married or possibly having kids.
My girls believe they can be farmers in their own right.